|2014 season opener of the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix (photo: Gunnar Roll)|
|Registration for the UC Santa Cruz XC Challenge|
Knowing what I was getting myself into I lined up right at the back of the Opens Men's event, which turned out to be very accurate self-seeding. From my vantage point I observed a distinct lack of running store pushed paraphernalia; compression socks, fuel belts, GUs. Just mostly skinny guys in club singlets. There was no chip timing and the awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd were announced very shortly after I stumbled over the finish line. The winning guys ran up and down the gravelly incline in around 5:15 min/mi pace. I boasted of a negative podium after the race (3rd last). There were no bars, cookies, hot chocolate at the post-race refreshments table, just some sports drink, cut up oranges and banana. I'm not sure if that explained why most around me were so skinny but I wasn't hearing any complaining.
|Masters Mens race|
While generally devastating for the ego, the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix is a great reminder that, when you strip it away, being a good runner has a lot to do with, well, running. With races from August to November in locations from Santa Cruz to Sacramento and in between, lots can be learned by joining a PA USATF club (I'm a member of Santa Cruz Endurance) and surrounding yourself with these athletes both young and old. Just don't expect to hear many inspiring stories about running changing lives. From the hot pace I suspect most of them started running at high school or college and just never broke the habit.